Stratasys Produces 3D Printed Parts For New Airbus Aircraft
Andrew Wheeler posted on May 07, 2015 |
Airbus's first-of-type A350 XWB aircraft is outfitted with thousands of AM flight parts

Yesterday, Stratasys announced that Airbus has produced more than 1000 flight parts on its Stratasys FDM 3D Production Systems for use in the first-of-type A350 XWB aircraft, which was delivered in December 2014. Airbus initiated development and certification of 3D printing with Stratasys in 2013 as a scheduled risk reduction activity for the A350 XWB program, and the 3D printed parts were used in place of traditionally manufactured parts to increase supply chain flexibility, which helped Airbus meet its delivery commitment on-time. 

The parts are 3D printed from ULTEM 9085 resin for FDM, which is certified to Airbus material specifications. ULTEM 9085 resin has a high strength-to-weight ratio and is FST (flame, smoke, and toxicity) compliant for aircraft interior applications. The goal was for Airbus to manufacture strong, lighter weight parts while substantially reducing production time and manufacturing costs.

“We are delighted that Stratasys additive manufacturing solutions are being adopted by Airbus for its flagship A350 XWB (extra wide body) aircraft. Both companies share a vision of applying innovative technologies to design and manufacturing to create game-changing benefits,” according to Dan Yalon, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Marketing & Vertical Solutions for Stratasys. “Our additive manufacturing solutions can produce complex parts on-demand, ensuring on time delivery while streamlining supply chains. Additive manufacturing also greatly improves the buy-to-fly ratio as significantly less material is wasted than with conventional manufacturing methods. Stratasys is looking forward to bringing these and other advantages to its collaboration with Airbus and to being part of Airbus’ Factory of the Future initiative.”

Aerospace and automotive companies are increasingly partnering with 3D printer manufacturers to adopt and test additive manufacturing strategies. Additive manufacturing enables original and replacement parts to be digitally produced at the best suited locations, reducing both material waste and inventory requirements. By adopting additive manufacturing throughout the product lifecycle, companies can reduce operational costs, accelerate time to market, decentralize production, and add new innovative product functionality.  

3D printing industrial parts means that companies like Stratasys have to meet high material standards and certifications which have been in place for every material that has ever flown.  In highly regulated industries like aerospace, the challenges to meet these high standards are long and cumbersome, generally taking about 15 years for a material to get certified for production and commercial use.  

The prototype A350 first flew on the 14th of June, 2013 from Toulouse, France. Airbus received type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency in September 2014 and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration two months after that. The A350 XWB entered service with  Qatar Airways, the type's launch customer in January 2015.

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